By George & Tom Chellis
So far this season, Leeds United have attempted to use every possible formation under the sun, to no avail. McDermott’s faith in the diamond midfield has yielded almost nothing, with the formation at least contributing to, at times, relegation-like form and a huge lack of creativity. Until finally, a breakthrough. Operating in a 3-5-2 system, our once floundering squad of underachievers broke into stride to annihilate a quite frankly abysmal Birmingham City. With this in mind, @LUFC_ Calypso assess whether the formation should be here to stay, or whether it is yet another short term solution to an on-going problem of not knowing how we should set up.
On many levels, 3-5-2 makes perfect sense. Operating with 2 wing backs allows those selected (we assume Byram and Warnock) to add the much desired width that so far has been totally absent, whilst also leaving the defensive ‘rock’ (if we can call it that) intact to deal with the counter-attacking play that can be so effective. In addition, wing backs provide the extra man power going forward, and with many fans and pundits alike have criticised a lack of desire to commit players to already lacklustre attacking moves, this seems like a system that can incorporate this. On the subject of attacking influence, playing 2 up front, could also stop the state of isolation that has occurred up top, particularly away from home, in which whoever has played up front has spent the large majority of the game chasing down inaccurate ‘hoofs’ from the back. With this system in place, it encourages far more cohesion between the midfield and the forwards, something that we definitely need to continue to score more goals and win more games.
Furthermore, this system allows us to play our best XI, all of which in the position that best suits them. For too long this season we have tried to develop a striker in Ross McCormack to a central-attacking-midfielder, and clearly this hasn’t worked. It is undeniable that Ross belongs up front, and as part of a partnership. In a search for the aforementioned width we desperately crave, all of our over-abundance of central midfielders have been asked at one time or another to do a stint on the left side of the midfield. Whether it be Austin or Green, Murphy of Mowatt, we cannot continue to field a team in which at least 2 players are playing in positions they are just not well-equipped enough to play in. 3-5-2 uses 3 central
midfielders, only leaving McDermott with the task of deciding which 3 to play and not who to play where.
By and large, the system seems to work. Although we must not get carried away with beating a emphatically poor Birmingham, at home and with a squad hungry for a result, the system we played paid a large part in the destruction of Lee Clark’s men. For the first time this season, we looked a right handful in front of goal and as stable as any Leeds United defence can be simultaneously. This is unheard of. Scoring more than 2 for the first time in a long time, we missed as many if not more glaring opportunities, and both Ross and Matt Smith could easily have taken the match ball home on last Sunday lunchtime. In contrast, the system clearly has frailties. Saturday’s performance against Huddersfield was largely disappointing, mostly down to the inefficiencies of the system. We found ourselves chasing back in last ditch attempts to hoard off the Town counter-attacks all too often, raising serious questions. This system seems fairly dependent on the wing backs putting in consistent high quality performances, something I’m not convinced that Warnock and LWB is capable of.
Having said this, with the current squad that McDermott has available to him, this is the most suitable and potentially successful system in his arsenal. For the sake of the players and the fans, we believe that this system must be operated on a regular basis, and continuity is the key when it comes to formation. It’s now down to Brian to pick our best XI and the players themselves to regularly find the form that saw a rejuvenated Leeds side run riot at Elland Rd last time out, not the underwhelming form that left us with a bitter taste in the mouth at the John Smith’s Stadium. If we can do this, maybe this season can’t be written off quite just yet.